Pretty fair numbers for guests at Westerner

Westerner Days Fair and Exposition saw nearly 2,700 fewer visitors than last year despite three of five days seeing higher attendance levels.

John Harms

John Harms

Westerner Days Fair and Exposition saw nearly 2,700 fewer visitors than last year despite three of five days seeing higher attendance levels.

A total of 88,061 people filed through the gates at Red Deer’s fair, compared with 2008’s record of 90,757. The event drew more fairgoers Wednesday through Friday, but by Saturday had dropped by 4,700 people from last year. Sunday’s attendance tally was 14,242, down from 16,210 in 2008.

Westerner Park chief executive officer John Harms wasn’t disappointed with this year’s attendance to Central Alberta’s largest summer event.

“We were chasing such a banner year in 2008,” Harms said on Monday. “I was wondering if we would be able to top that. The Saturday (attendance in 2008, of 24,729) was an absolute record. I don’t think we could have gotten another person on the grounds.”

On Saturday, 19,973 people showed up to take in the midway, livestock shows, pony chuckwagon races and Canadian country singer Aaron Pritchett.

Harms figures some people stayed away on Saturday due to the scorching weather. Environment Canada reported 29C at 4 p.m., the highest temperature of the day.

“It felt like 33 C . . . people don’t want to come and walk on the asphalt when it’s hot,” Harms said.

Fewer fairgoers than expected showed up on Family Day on Sunday, he added.

The topsy-turvy weather caused one glitch on the midway. The Ferris wheel was shut down at around 11 p.m. on Saturday due to strong winds.

“Overall, we were delighted,” Harms said. “We received so many positive comments on the entertainment, the relocation of the family area to the Harvest Centre. We know we’re attracting young families from Calgary and Edmonton.”

Organizers begin preparations this week for next year’s event.

Westerner Days top prize winners were Richard Fink of Regina, who received a $5,000 WestJet vacation voucher through the Kinsmen/Kinette Club of Red Deer; and Hilis Plata of Red Deer, who picked up $10,000 from the Central Alberta Lions Club raffle.

The London Drugs pancake breakfasts raised $8,300 for five Central Alberta organizations.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com